American Poetry in Italy before and after 1985

by Massimo Bacigalupo

American poetry has enjoyed a huge readership in Italy. Major figures like Whitman, Dickinson and the chief Modernists and Beats have been translated many times, with the possible exception of Robert Frost. In the postwar years, until about 1975, several major anthologies were published and the canonical translations of Whitman, Dickinson, Masters, Pound, Eliot, Ginsberg, Plath, Williams, Moore, Cummings, Lowell, Corso and Ferlinghetti appeared. Beat poetry was launched by Fernanda Pivano’s path-breaking anthology of 1963, Poesia degli ultimi americani. Then a period of consolidation set in, marked by new important editions and translations. But while the appeal of major figures was confirmed, interest in American poetry as such flagged, and no major anthology appeared until West of Your Cities (2003). Nevertheless, established contemporary poets like Simic, Wright, Levine, Glück, Collins, Komunyakaa, find translators, publishers and readers possibly with greater ease than their French, Spanish, German and Russian fellow authors. The 2010s are still a time in which American culture is more pervasive than others in Italy, even in the relatively exclusive realms of poetry.